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Outtake: Wildlife in Israel

There are so many "fun facts" and side stories about Israel that I wanted to include in The True Adventures but there wasn't room! So I have collected some "outtakes" for you!

Israel boasts a spectacular diversity of wildlife albeit with one rodent glaringly missing – squirrels. Being a native North American, I find this omission of nature weird. Not to be daunted, however, nature did the Rock Hyrax, a rodent-like creature that is actually not related to rodents at all, but remotely, to elephants and manatees. Rock Hyraxes can be found basking on the rocks in the Golan Heights and around Lake Kineret.

Israel is, of course, a home for dromedary camels that live in remote parts of the desert. Because they were and are valuable livestock very few (if any) are wild anymore. The few times I have seen them, they have either been tied up at a souvenir spot to attract tourists, or tied together, in small groups as they graze.

Israel does have quite a lot of jackals though. A jackal is basically a coyote but more exotic because the word jackal sounds like mythology and Egypt and arcane, illustrated books about the Middle East. Like coyotes, jackals are both predators and scavengers and as the population in Israel grows, they can be found in urban spots, sometimes raiding garbage bins, so not so exotic after all.

One favorite snack of jackals is feral cats, which Israel has in alarmingly large numbers. The urban myth is that they were brought here by the British, some cut loose and bred uncontrollably. Both of my cats come from this street lineage.

The hyena, which is not a canine, by the way – can also be found in Israel, though their numbers must be significantly smaller in these modern times. I have never seen one but I would be utterly thrilled to, from the safety of a car! The city of Modi'in, in central Israel has apparently had a number of hyenas wander into the city at night, in search of snacks. One, in particular, was named "Rutti" and eventually relocated.

Being that Israel is located in the “near East” and, I will remind you, is technically on the continent of Asia, it is a magnet for migrating birds from Europe and West Asia to and from Africa and thusly, a top destination for serious birdwatchers.


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